Arm Length: 33 inches
10-Yard Split: 1.62 seconds
Broad Jump: 10’1”
Three-Cone Drill: 7.21 seconds
Short Shuttle: 4.35 seconds
Noah Spence has been one of the most talked about prospects in the 2016 Draft Class. After his dominant 2013 sophomore season, Spence was permanently suspended from the Big Ten because of his second failed drug test that season. Spence then transferred to Eastern Kentucky to play the 2015 season as a Colonel. Spence had success both at Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky. Prior to his transfer, Spence had 14.5 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks in his 2013 sophomore season, and was also named First Team Big Ten All-Conference.
The first game I watched of Spence was against state rival Kentucky in 2015. I came away very impressed, and I have a few clips to show how dominant he was in that game. In this first clip you see possibly his best trait, explosion. The First Team Big Ten All Conference linebacker explodes out of his two points stance beats the Kentucky offensive tackle to the edge, and then uses an excellent rip move to sack the quarterback.
The second clip against Kentucky shows other great attributes to his game--footwork and quick change of direction. Spence reads the offensive tackle, watches him over-commit to the outside edge, and then Spence explodes off his right foot to completely beat the tackle inside. If the running back were not there, Spence would have made the easy sack.
When you watch the former Buckeye and Colonel’s tape chronologically, one piece of his game improved tremendously--hand usage.
Spence probably has the best outside rip move in this draft class. In this clip against NC State, he easily beats the tackle to the outside edge. However, that does not tell the full story of how he beat the tackle on that play. He brilliantly used his inside hand to swat the offensive lineman’s punch away from his body then rips under the lineman’s attempted punch. He finishes the play by bending around the tackle, leaving the tackle on the ground and sacking the quarterback.
All that being said, Spence uses more than just one move with his hands. In this play against Valparaiso, Spence takes advantage of the tackle over extending and uses his strong arms to swat the offensive lineman’s punch and then go around him with ease.
Another huge part of Spence’s game is his impressive flexibility on the outside. In this clip, we throw it back to Spence’s Ohio State days in 2013. In this play against 2015 second round pick and former Penn State left tackle Donovan Smith, Spence shows his impressive bend on the outside edge. Spence shows his explosion, paired with his excellent rip move mentioned above, but his flexibility his shown as he bends around Smith and almost gets parallel with the ground before he strip sacks a completely unaware Christian Hackenberg. In all of the clips shown, Spence’s quality flexibility is easily visible/present as a true strength to his game.
After the NFL Combine, Spence began to take a dip in many mock drafts because of a sub par forty-yard dash time. The NFL Combine does a lot of good things by testing athletic ability, and allowing teams to get to know players before the draft etc. However, the combine can be overblown, and over scrutinized. If you look into Spence’s forty time, you have to look at his ten-yard split at 1.62 seconds, which is easily the more important factor when evaluating an edge rusher. This clip summarizes why I am not worried about Spence’s forty time. The First Team Big Ten All-Conference linebacker lines up from a three-point stance and beats the offensive tackle with his first step and bend, which Spence does so often. However, the most important part of this play is what he does after he is past the tackle. In that play, Spence showed great closing speed to get to the quarterback, which is way more important then a forty-yard dash. NFL teams and draft scouts focus much more on play speed than combine speed, which Spence passes with flying colors.
Spence’s biggest negatives are off the field with his past drug addiction issues. That being said, Spence seems to have cleaned up his act by willingly submitting to weekly drug tests and has not had a problem since 2013. However, his stock possibly can take a dip based on his past experiences because no matter how much he may have changed, his off the field issues will still scare some teams off the field issues. The former Colonel also is not very scheme versatile, he really only fits as a 3-4 rusher because of his body type and play style. He lacks the ideal power and size to play as a 4-3 DE and was rarely asked to cover, which doesn’t support him as able to play as a 4-3 weak or strong side linebacker. The lack of power is probably the most concerning negative on tape. Spence has enough power to disengage from blockers, but doesn’t consistently overpower and move offensive linemen. As a run defender, the Eastern Kentucky transfer lacks discipline, which shows when he over pursues and moves too far up field.
What Others Are Saying:
Jon Ledyard The Draft Wire/USA Today: “Spence may be the best pure edge rusher in the entire draft, as his ability to gain the corner with quickness, active hands, and exceptional bend is special. Many speed rushers aren’t the most ideal run defenders, but while Spence is far from a finished product, he does a nice job setting the edge against rushers as well.”
Ian Wharton Bleacher Report: “Overall, Spence deserves to be mentioned with the likes of Laremy Tunsil, Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey, Jared Goff and Ezekiel Elliott as one of the top talents in the draft, as he is the best pure edge-rusher in the class. He offers unique movement skills for his size that are rarely available in the draft.”
Grade/Round Projection: Top 15 Pick
The forty-yard dash time of Noah Spence has not changed my overall feelings on his on the field talent. Spence shows tremendous speed, flexibly and a plethora of moves to get the quarterback. His off the field issues, while concerning do not change his talent/production on the field. I could see him slide to the early second round, because of the off the field problems, but his talent level makes him a top fifteen player.